Wings, wine and wildlife: Par Avion’s Maria Island Experience

An aerial view of a beach, ocean and forest on the Freycinet Peninsula

Each summer, we try to leave one really special activity right until the end of the holidays. A final hurrah before we all fully sink ourselves back into work and school.

Last year, it was the Par Avion Southwest Wilderness Experience, which DorkySon wrote about so well on his Hobart Aviation Fan blog. This year we treated ourselves to another Par Avion flight: this time up to Maria Island on Tasmania’s East Coast.

Only DorkyDad had visited Maria Island before. Just a week or two after we moved here, he accompanied some researchers to the island on a seaplane, on a trip to release some Tasmanian Devils into the wild. What an introduction to life in Tassie! 

The closest DorkySon and I had been was driving past on the way up to the Freycinet Peninsula – but we had heard from so many people what a special place it is, and the Par Avion experience seemed like a good introduction. 

East Coast Tasmania from the air

Unfortunately, our original date in the school holidays was cancelled the day before, because there was no plane available… but there was availability a couple of weeks later on the Hobart Regatta Day holiday, so we rescheduled for then instead.

Unlike the Southwest Wilderness Experience, which is a full day, the Maria Island trip is just a few hours, leaving Cambridge at 11am and returning at 2pm. If you were only visiting Tasmania for a few days it would be a wonderful way to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the East Coast without tackling the less-than-spectacular roads. 

DorkySon has now had three flying lessons with Par Avion Flight Training, and although he wouldn’t get the chance to take the controls on this trip, he was still really keen to sit up front in the Cessna and watch everything that was going on. Our pilot Jonah did a great job talking us through some of the sights we could see out the window, while also talking DorkySon through some of his manoeuvres and decisions in the cockpit. Even for someone like me, who has no experience or aptitude for flying, it was also really interesting listening to some of the air traffic control chatter over our headsets. 

East Coast Tasmania aerial view

After taking off from Cambridge, we headed straight for the coast, passing over Triabunna and then out to Schouten Island. It was much more pleasant seeing Schouten Island from above – last time I came that close to it, I was on a wildlife watching boat tour that operated out of Coles Bay, and it was a very bumpy day on the water…

We then flew over for a good view of the Freycinet Peninsula, including Wineglass Bay (again, much better from above!), the Hazards and Coles Bay, before taking a left over Great Oyster Bay, back over Schouten Island, and down south to Maria Island. 

The airstrip on Maria Island is… well… basic. It’s really just a field with a few cones on it. Jonah warned us that if we came in low and then suddenly revved up and away again, it was because he was trying to scare off some of the numerous Cape Barren Geese, wombats and kangaroos that often like to graze there. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and we actually had a very smooth landing, in part due to the ‘slippery dip’ style runway (that’s a term for a kid’s slide, for all my non-Aussie readers) that dips down in the middle and naturally slows the plane down. 

Cape Barren Goose

After landing, we walked to a nearby pebble beach, passing a lot of entirely unfussed Cape Barren Geese on the way, and had a quick lunch and a glass of wine before taking half an hour to wander around the grasslands and cliffs. Sadly we didn’t stumble upon any wombats, although we saw plenty of cube-shaped evidence that they were in the area, and we did see a kangaroo from a distance.

Maria Island is so much bigger than most people realise. We knew that this trip wouldn’t give us very long to explore – no chance to climb up to the dolerite columns of Bishop and Clerk, or to visit the settlement at Darlington Township, Fossil Cliffs or the Painted Cliffs. It was really just dipping our toes in to see if it’s somewhere we’d like to go for longer in future, and the answer is an emphatic yes. 

A hand holding a rock with visible fossils

I reckon to do that, we’ll need to get over our squeamishness about camping, or wait until DorkySon has his pilot’s licence and he can just zip us up and back with ease. 

(Joking. Kinda…) 

In the meantime, it was a lovely way to finish the summer, and a reminder of what a genuinely beautiful, unique place we live in. Thanks Par Avion for another cracking day. 

A teenage boy stands in front of a Cessna at the airstrip on Maria Island

2 responses

  1. What a fabulous trip….. and what amazing pictures. You live in such a beautiful part of the world. Your summer can’t be over just yet though; it must be late summer, that autumn doesn’t really kick in to late March? I’m being optimistic for you :o). I love the words slippery dip! X

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